In many countries, Heavy and Extra Heavy oil reserves are located in sensitive environments, remote from existing infrastructure. Heavy oil production is energy intensive, requiring the combustion of fossil fuels to produce the heat and power required. Burning fossil fuels creates a wide variety of emissions to atmosphere, such as the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) released by burning carboniferous fuels to combustion pollutants such as oxides of nitrogen (NOx). In addition, Heavy Oil reservoirs tend to be gas deficient, and often a low cost way of disposing of the small quantities of unwanted associated gas is to flare it, creating a new source of emissions.
The first part of this paper looks at how to minimise emissions from energy production by making best use of locally available fuels, such as associated gas, and employing energy efficient techniques such as Cogeneration. It then discusses how the three most common power generation technologies – gas turbines, reciprocating engines and steam turbines – can be applied to Heavy Oil operations to minimise the impact of fossil fuel combustion.
However, building and operating a power plant or energy facility of any kind, also has other impacts on the environment. There are transportation issues in getting the equipment to site in the first place, the human impact on the environment due to both construction and operation of facilities, the issue of disposal of produced wastes, and the need for continuous re-supply of the power plant with the consumable items and spare parts to keep it operational. This paper therefore also compares the consumable and maintenance needs of the three main power generation technologies to investigate the long term impact of operations on the environment.